The Agatha Christie Company is presenting the 1940’s Murder on the Nile this year and the ship finally docked in Newcastle for a week as the mammoth tour (started January) nears its end. But the heat of Egypt was not only on stage, the auditorium was so hot you were wiping your brow along with the cast and ice cream sales must have boomed at the interval.
While the play is from a different era (as the story is a supposedly random group cruise up the Nile at a time of unrest and trouble on the financial markets) it hits a chord even today.
The plot revolves around Simon Mostyn and his wife Kay who are on their honeymoon, while his former fiancée seemingly haunts their every move. There is of course a murder and it is left to Canon Ambrose Pennefather (no Poirot or Marple here) to unravel the truth. Denis Lill, as the Canon, a regular of the Christie Company and consummate theatre professional, holds the production together.
The rest of the cast is made up of faces who used to be familiar on TV, such as Chloe Newsome (Coronation Street) as the ex fiancée and Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier) and Susie Amy (Footballers Wives). They are joined by Mark Wynter (who excels as the Jewish Doctor) and Kate O’Mara as the demanding Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes, who is annoyed her name is spelt with capital letters on the shipping list.
Director Joe Harmston keeps the action firmly as intended but as a whole it’s just too slow and old fashioned. Times have changed since the 1940’s and some updating is required to make this work. The first half is just dull and the length of time between Act 1 and Act 2 meant several members of the audience tried to head for the bar thinking it was the interval with a few not returning. After months on the road this should have been sorted. Following the interval things do pick up with many comedy moments and finally some action. Over all there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.